Rescheduled Masters golf tournament opens to soggy fall weather not April flowers


Dan Perry (Flickr)

The signs are the same but the sights will be different at this years rescheduled Masters golf tournament

Michael Russell, Reporter

The Masters golf tournament, has been played the first full week of April since the year after its inception in 1934.  This year, because of the havoc that COVID-19 has wrought on nearly all sports schedules, the opening round starts today, Nov. 12.  This year’s champion is scheduled to don the coveted “Green Jacket” on Sunday, Nov. 15.

In April, the tournament’s home course, Augusta National, in Augusta, Ga., features blooming azaleas and lush green fairways.  In mid-November, it will play longer and softer according to the experts and although it probably won’t matter much to the players, won’t showcase any blooming dogwoods and red buds.

It will be much quieter and wetter at Augusta this year. No patrons will be allowed this year and the weather forecast calls for rain today, as Tropical Storm Eta is passes by.  Forecasters say there’s about a 20%-40% chance of rain throughout the weekend.

Last year’s surprise winner, Tiger Woods, probably won’t be much of a factor at this week’s tournament.  Since the PGA restarted in July after a pause for COVID-19, Woods hasn’t finished higher than 37th and missed the cut in his last major.  Last year’s Masters victory was Woods’ fifth, and marked his 15th major win.

The all-time Masters title leader is Jack Nicklaus with six titles. Nicklaus, also the all-time major golf title leader with 18, will hit the ceremonial opening tee shot.

World #1 golfer Dustin Johnson was on a hot streak, including winning the Tour Championship in August. The hot streak was ended, temporarily, not on the golf course, but by a positive test for coronavirus on October 13 that caused him to be out of action for 11 days while quarantining in a Las Vegas hotel room.

World #2 golfer Jon Rahm made two holes in one at Augusta practice rounds this week. One was an incredible shot that skimmed along the water in front of the green several times before landing on the green and rolling into the hole.

Bryson DeChambeau overpowered a long, tough, Winged Foot layout to lap the field by six strokes at September’s U.S. Open. In the last year, he bulked up physically to add monster 400-yard drives to his game. Since that September victory, he has added even more muscle to his frame and a longer driver in his bag. Whether or not DeChambeau will be able to overpower a wet Augusta National is another question.

Former World #1 Rory McIlroy still needs the Masters green jacket to complete his career grand slam. Many thought McIlroy was close to his top form before the pandemic hit.

The leading major title winner of the last several years, Brooks Koepka, has been dealing with a knee injury most of this year. He has missed several tournaments this season but is reportedly ready for the Masters. Koepka has won four of the last 12 majors played since 2017.

The 2017 Masters champion, Sergio Garcia of Spain, has tested positive for the coronavirus and will not be competing at this year’s Masters. Garcia had the longest current streak of consecutive majors played at 84. It started over 20 years ago when he battled Tiger Woods at Carnoustie in the 1999 British Open.

Fan favorite and three-time Masters champ Phil Mickelson, has had mixed results in 2020. Now 50 years old, he has played extremely well on the Champions (Senior) Tour winning his first two tournaments there, but not so well on the regular PGA Tour.

The Masters can be viewed on ESPN today and Friday. The final two rounds are on CBS Saturday and Sunday.